As the temperature drops and the blustery winds cut through our clothes and chill us to the bone, we are eagerly building and reconstructing animal housing for some new additions to the Wells Tavern Farm animal collection.
I have researched (to death) pig breeds, and chosen for temperament and taste (in the opposite order), the Berkshire Pig was the winner! We have a trio of pigs coming next week: a Tamworth Sow, a Berkshire Sow and a Tamworth Boar. They will be added to our Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs, and the Red Wattle/Large Black crosses. These pigs represent a hefty investment in purchase price and commitment to feed through the winter – but, we anticipate that they will not only provide us with hours of fun porcine landscaping, and some wonderfully tasty pork products in Fall 2010.
We have also committed to purchase two grass-fed Belted Galloway steers. One is a lovely nearly full-grown, very spirited steer who has a sixth sense for when an electric fence is alive, and the other is incredibly long-bodied yearling steer. They will be added to the pasture in early December.
The final purchase is a drop dead gorgeous late spring heifer calf (a female) who is a Murray Grey. The Murray Grey breed is unfortunately, not a heritage breed. As faithful readers know, we attempt to raise mostly heritage breeds. We try to do this whenever it is feasible. Backstory: There is nothing technically wrong with the Belted Galloways that we graze. They are a slow-growing, compact and tough little beef animal. Murray Greys are quicker growing, friendly, hornless, medium-framed (larger than Galloways) and produce more tender meat [Murray Greys produce marbled beef carcass without excess subcutaneous or inter-muscular seam fat of the type that is preferred in Japan and other Asian markets.] Not that we have any reach into the Japan or Asian markets, but that marbling and tenderness sounds intriguing. So, the plan for this calf, is to grow her out, breed her to either our White Galloway Bull, or to another Murray Grey (artificially) and then raise her calves. So we won’t be able to see if the marbling and carcass quality is what the scientists say that it is for about three-four years: raise her and breeding her at 22 months old, nine months gestation, and then a couple of years to raise her calf.
Yes, I have created calendars that tell me which animals we will be “processing” during which months for the next three years. It takes an awful lot of forethought to accomplish meat in the freezer for sale. The way that I control the quality of the finished product is by starting with quality stock, raising it on grass and high quality feed (for the non-beef animals on the farm) and then raising it for months and months and months, and then taking it to the right slaughterhouse where animals are treated humanely (they have prohibited the use of electric prods, and allow an acclimation time for an animal to calm down after transport for a few hours before processing, while offering them hay and water) and we know that the meat that we transport back to the farm, is the meat form our animals. It is not “mystery meat” that perhaps came from someone else’s animals — it is, without a doubt, our animal that comes home with us.
The process of farming is long — the long view needs to be taken at all times. When we pay for three hundred dollars of grain a week at the feed store, we need to take some deep breaths and take the long view. It is not every week that we hit three hundred dollars — just seasonally when the turkeys are at their largest and closest to processing. Similarly, it is not everyday that we invest in nearly three thousand dollars of animal acquisitions. Long view. We plan to be here to see how it all pans out in three years 🙂